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PostPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:04 pm  I am seriously questioning my atheism Reply with quote

Disclaimer: This post may be out of place on the Christianity and Apologetics forum (even though it does have some relation to Christianity), if it is, I apologize and ask that it be moved to a more appropriate place on the forum. However, I do intend this thread to be a discussion, if not a debate, so I felt this was the best place for it.

As many of you know, I am an ex-evangelical Christian and a current atheist. By "atheist," I mean I lack belief in god(s) of any kind, although I do not assert that there are definitely no gods. Since departing from Christianity, everything has made so much more sense: an eternal Universe (defined as the totality of natural existence) explained existence, evolution explained the diversity of life on earth, the absence of god(s) explained the problems of evil, inconsistent revelation, and so on.

However, there is one thing that I have been unable to account for under atheism: morality. Atheists almost invariably state that moral values and duties are not objective facts, but are simply subjective statements of preference and have no ontological value. That is, of course, until we are presented with cases of true evil, such as the Holocaust, the atrocities of Pol Pot, or the horrible psychopathic serial killings of individuals like Jeffery Dahmer. Then we as atheists tacitly appeal to objective moral values and duties, saying that individuals who commit should be severely punished (even executed) for doing "evil," saying that they "knew right from wrong." But if right and wrong are simply statements of subjective opinion, then how can we say that others knew "right from wrong" and are accountable for their actions? If relativism is true, they simply had differing opinions from the majority of human beings. However, it seems obvious to me (and to the vast majority of others, theist and atheist alike) that this is absurd -- the monsters who carried out the aforementioned acts really, objectively did evil.

Given this, the only reasonable conclusion is that moral facts and imperatives exist.

However, atheism appears to offer no framework for moral facts. Because of this, a few weeks ago, I started up a discussion on Wielenbergian moral realism, which states that objective moral values are simply "brute facts" that exist without any explanation. However, others rightly pointed out that the existence of "brute facts" is ontologically problematic and that the best explanation (on atheism) is that morality is simply subjective. Additionally, even if atheistic moral facts existed, the Humeian problem of deriving an "ought" from an "is" would preclude them from acting as moral imperatives; commands which human beings are obligated to follow.

In light of these airtight logical objections to atheistic moral realism, I was forced to abandon my position on moral facts and tentatively adopt moral relativism. However, relativism still seems problematic. After all, if morality is subjective, no one person can accuse another of failing to recognize the difference between "right and wrong," however, it is obvious to me (and, I would suspect, to other atheists as well) that right or wrong really objectively (not subjectively) exist.

The only rational conclusion I can seem to come up with is that there is a (are) transcendent moral lawgiver(s) who both grounds moral facts and issues binding moral commands on all humanity; i.e., God(s). This echoes evangelical Christian philosopher William Lane Craig's moral argument, which syllogism reads:

WLC wrote:
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists


Premises 1 and 2 seem bulletproof -- (1) was demonstrated earlier in this post, leaving (2) as the only premise to attack. However, (2) seems to be as obvious as a hand in front of my face. The conclusion necessarily follows from (1) and (2), so is there any rational reason for me to reject the conclusion of the argument?

Remember, I am no believer of any kind. I am a staunch, educated, informed atheist, and I am well aware of the philosophical arguments against God(s), such as the problem of evil, the dysteleological argument, the problem of omniscience, etc. I'm also well aware of the plentiful empirical evidence against the existence of God(s), for instance, evolution, mind-body physicalism, etc. These are the reasons I reconverted from Christianity in the first place. However, I don't see way around this problem other than to accept either that our apparently obvious sense of moral facts is somehow mistaken, or that (a) theistic being(s) exist.

Debate question: Are my issues with atheism legitimate? Can atheism provide a coherent moral framework other than nihilism, relativism, or subjectivism? Do these problems really present evidence for theism? Is William Lane Craig right? Is this a real problem for atheism, or are my (our) emotions simply overriding my (our) rationality?

Feel free to present evidence for or against atheism, Christianity, or any religious or nonreligious perspective in this thread.
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 245: Sun Mar 04, 2012 2:03 am
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JoeyKnothead wrote:
From Post 199:

spayne wrote:

That's an acceptable proposition. But I also think that the beauty of God is that he is extremely personal, and so he speaks to us in terms we will understand. So when he says slow he means slow.

I'm unaware of any god speaking to anyone.

spayne wrote:

A God who is only loving but who will not or can not uphold justice and firmly establish control over evil is insincere and ineffectual, don't you think?
JoeyKnothead wrote:

Ask the starving, the prayerful, the lacking.

Yes, I'm sure it's no coincidence that the starving, the prayerful and the lacking understand the goodness of God.

This, I contend, is an example of the god concept in action. Notice the change of meaning employed to continue the notion of a "good" God.

Where there are starving folks, in the millions, I contend this is not indicative of a "good" God, but of a God that prefers folks suffer over lifting a finger to help.


And I would contend that it is the result of a brutal world that has rejected God.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 246: Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:35 am
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spayne wrote:

This, I contend, is an example of the god concept in action. Notice the change of meaning employed to continue the notion of a "good" God.

Where there are starving folks, in the millions, I contend this is not indicative of a "good" God, but of a God that prefers folks suffer over lifting a finger to help.


And I would contend that it is the result of a brutal world that has rejected God.[/quote]

Then, prey tell, why are some of the countries that have the lowest levels of poverty the most secular and atheistic in the general populations, and the countries that are the poorest, and have the greatest amounts of suffering have the highest amounts of religiousness?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 247: Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:51 am
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Haven wrote:
Disclaimer: This post may be out of place on the Christianity and Apologetics forum (even though it does have some relation to Christianity), if it is, I apologize and ask that it be moved to a more appropriate place on the forum. However, I do intend this thread to be a discussion, if not a debate, so I felt this was the best place for it.

As many of you know, I am an ex-evangelical Christian and a current atheist. By "atheist," I mean I lack belief in god(s) of any kind, although I do not assert that there are definitely no gods. Since departing from Christianity, everything has made so much more sense: an eternal Universe (defined as the totality of natural existence) explained existence, evolution explained the diversity of life on earth, the absence of god(s) explained the problems of evil, inconsistent revelation, and so on.

However, there is one thing that I have been unable to account for under atheism: morality. Atheists almost invariably state that moral values and duties are not objective facts, but are simply subjective statements of preference and have no ontological value. That is, of course, until we are presented with cases of true evil, such as the Holocaust, the atrocities of Pol Pot, or the horrible psychopathic serial killings of individuals like Jeffery Dahmer. Then we as atheists tacitly appeal to objective moral values and duties, saying that individuals who commit should be severely punished (even executed) for doing "evil," saying that they "knew right from wrong." But if right and wrong are simply statements of subjective opinion, then how can we say that others knew "right from wrong" and are accountable for their actions? If relativism is true, they simply had differing opinions from the majority of human beings. However, it seems obvious to me (and to the vast majority of others, theist and atheist alike) that this is absurd -- the monsters who carried out the aforementioned acts really, objectively did evil.

Given this, the only reasonable conclusion is that moral facts and imperatives exist.

However, atheism appears to offer no framework for moral facts. Because of this, a few weeks ago, I started up a discussion on Wielenbergian moral realism, which states that objective moral values are simply "brute facts" that exist without any explanation. However, others rightly pointed out that the existence of "brute facts" is ontologically problematic and that the best explanation (on atheism) is that morality is simply subjective. Additionally, even if atheistic moral facts existed, the Humeian problem of deriving an "ought" from an "is" would preclude them from acting as moral imperatives; commands which human beings are obligated to follow.

In light of these airtight logical objections to atheistic moral realism, I was forced to abandon my position on moral facts and tentatively adopt moral relativism. However, relativism still seems problematic. After all, if morality is subjective, no one person can accuse another of failing to recognize the difference between "right and wrong," however, it is obvious to me (and, I would suspect, to other atheists as well) that right or wrong really objectively (not subjectively) exist.

The only rational conclusion I can seem to come up with is that there is a (are) transcendent moral lawgiver(s) who both grounds moral facts and issues binding moral commands on all humanity; i.e., God(s). This echoes evangelical Christian philosopher William Lane Craig's moral argument, which syllogism reads:

WLC wrote:
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists


Premises 1 and 2 seem bulletproof -- (1) was demonstrated earlier in this post, leaving (2) as the only premise to attack. However, (2) seems to be as obvious as a hand in front of my face. The conclusion necessarily follows from (1) and (2), so is there any rational reason for me to reject the conclusion of the argument?

Remember, I am no believer of any kind. I am a staunch, educated, informed atheist, and I am well aware of the philosophical arguments against God(s), such as the problem of evil, the dysteleological argument, the problem of omniscience, etc. I'm also well aware of the plentiful empirical evidence against the existence of God(s), for instance, evolution, mind-body physicalism, etc. These are the reasons I reconverted from Christianity in the first place. However, I don't see way around this problem other than to accept either that our apparently obvious sense of moral facts is somehow mistaken, or that (a) theistic being(s) exist.

Debate question: Are my issues with atheism legitimate? Can atheism provide a coherent moral framework other than nihilism, relativism, or subjectivism? Do these problems really present evidence for theism? Is William Lane Craig right? Is this a real problem for atheism, or are my (our) emotions simply overriding my (our) rationality?

Feel free to present evidence for or against atheism, Christianity, or any religious or nonreligious perspective in this thread.

whats up Haven.

Im not gonna read for 25 pages of responses. I will just have to risk repeating someone else. I see that you are having problems with reconciling something that has long been under the demense of religious thought with an atheistic ontology. I want to answer your questions first.

Are your issues with athiesm relevant? sure. you pointed out rightly that some athiests will cling to what they percieve as an objective moral standing when put in positions of high emotion/high stakes. Its certainly true. However, the athiest is appealing (without knowing it) to purely a cultural phenomenon. Cerrtainly we here in the west would all agree that jeffrey dahmer is wrong, just from hearing of his crimes. A person from cultural china would likely want more details before passing judgement. Its a cultural phenomenon, not an all encompassing spiritual dictate. In fact, the differences in cultures, in relation to morality, prove morality's subjectiveness. But I digress.

an atheism provide a coherent moral framework other than nihilism, relativism, or subjectivism?

Im sure someone has pointed some things out by now to the tune of atheism cant provide a moral framework, because lack of belief in something shouldnt have that much of an impact in your life. hopefully.

Are emotions overriding your logic? I think so , yes. That brings me to my point. I believe (and there is evidence to this effect) that morality, and indeed emotions themselves are biological phenomenon created by , and influenced by natural selection. Long story short, those people ( I say some animals also) that had emotions gained, at least, a slight edge in some way above those that didnt. In the same way, as people began living in larger groups, those that behaved in a moral way gained some slight edge in some way above those that werent moral.

Why is this so? If you ask me, Its because a group of people with social tendencies that agree to be moral to one another are going to be alot more successfull than everyone else who is thinking 'everyman for himself'. There is also the tendency for the 'everyman' types to compete amongst each other, and even eliminate each other through less than moral behavior. Well, thats my 2 cents.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 248: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:34 am
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From Post 245:

spayne wrote:

JoeyKnothead wrote:

Where there are starving folks, in the millions, I contend this is not indicative of a "good" God, but of a God that prefers folks suffer over lifting a finger to help.

And I would contend that it is the result of a brutal world that has rejected God.

Either way, my point stands.

Now, what we're really getting at here is that the folks in question may not worship the god you prefer to worship, so they're being left to their misery. How might'n we convince them of the worship worthiness of a god that we can't show exists? How might'n we convince them that you, spayne, have confirmed your favored god prefers folks to act or think in a certain fashion?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 249: Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:07 am
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spayne wrote:

And I would contend that it is the result of a brutal world that has rejected God.

The "brutal world" is an absolute pussycat compared to the psychotic genocidal God of the Bible, who seemed to be always mad all the time, despite the fact that things never ever turned out one jot different from the way he always knew that they would.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 250: Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:42 am
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Haven wrote:
Using utilitarian ethics, the most moral thing to do would be to kill the healthy man and use his organs as transplants for your five dying patients, thereby saving five lives. However, doing so would be absolutely evil and morally abhorrent, and everyone knows it. You cannot take the life of an innocent person in order to save other lives -- that is wrong. However, under utilitarianism, it would be right. This entails a contradiction, and this makes utilitarian ethics false.

Would letting 4 people die while it could be avoided, be the right choice ?

Quote:
I cannot accept, as some utilitarian philosophers such as Peter Singer have said, that unborn babies and infants have no right to live, and that it is permissible to euthanize disabled people and those suffering from illnesses.
Quote:
Sacrificing individuals for their wealth, or on the count of their genetics, or for any other reason -- though done in the name of "the greater good" does in fact jeopardize the rights of all. In this sense, we can conclude that if people are to be respected as ends in and of themselves rather than means to an end, rights for all are accounted for.

These again are dilemmas, of choosing between an evil of type A and an evil of type B. The material necessity of choosing one of them, does not make the chosen one a "permissible evil". Any choice can easily be condemned as the wrong one, when not paying attention to how wrong the alternative may sometimes be. Different contexts might make either A worse than B, or B worse than A. While making a law forcing the choice to A as a matter of principle, may seem justified when we imagine cases where B would be clearly worse than A, it may be dangerous when leading to absurd applications to other cases when A would be clearly worse than B.

Autodidact wrote:
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
-Dalai Lama
This may work in some cases and also hopefully in the ultimate level of life review after death. However there are also many cases when both purposes do not match. Some ways of practicing compassion may only succeed to make oneself happy at the expense of others (see there the section "The spiritual ego, in practice"), while some of the best possible actions, such as developing something (a new technology, a piece of art...) that will benefit millions, fails to make oneself happy during this life to any proportional extent, for lack of personally knowing the beneficiaries of one's actions. Again, see also that big type of example, of how both purposes may diverge, so that not the same type of compassion would best help either purpose during this life.

Haven wrote:
If we assume there are no animals on the island, and no way for the person's actions to effect any other sentient beings, then no, there would be no need for morality.
I disagree. He would still have the moral duty to respect himself.

Knight wrote:
Does "morality" refer to the set of that which is good or the [alleged] fact that men ought to do that which is good?
Does the morality of the isolated man on the island, refer to the set of actions that he likes, or the alleged fact that he ought to do that which he likes ? Indeed, as some NDEs suggest, I think each one will be affected by the effects of one's actions on others after death.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 251: Sun Mar 04, 2012 2:02 pm
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spoirier wrote:
Haven wrote:
Using utilitarian ethics, the most moral thing to do would be to kill the healthy man and use his organs as transplants for your five dying patients, thereby saving five lives. However, doing so would be absolutely evil and morally abhorrent, and everyone knows it. You cannot take the life of an innocent person in order to save other lives -- that is wrong. However, under utilitarianism, it would be right. This entails a contradiction, and this makes utilitarian ethics false.

Would letting 4 people die while it could be avoided, be the right choice ?
Would giving up my own life to save five others be the right choice? That would be suicide.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 252: Sun Mar 04, 2012 4:44 pm
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Artie wrote:
Would giving up my own life to save five others be the right choice? That would be suicide.


In my opinion, yes, it would be the right choice. I would absolutely give up my own life if I had the chance to save five other lives.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 253: Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:10 pm
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JoeyKnothead wrote:
From Post 245:

spayne wrote:

JoeyKnothead wrote:

Where there are starving folks, in the millions, I contend this is not indicative of a "good" God, but of a God that prefers folks suffer over lifting a finger to help.

And I would contend that it is the result of a brutal world that has rejected God.

Either way, my point stands.

Now, what we're really getting at here is that the folks in question may not worship the god you prefer to worship, so they're being left to their misery. How might'n we convince them of the worship worthiness of a god that we can't show exists? How might'n we convince them that you, spayne, have confirmed your favored god prefers folks to act or think in a certain fashion?


I think your argument is a classic case of the atheist seeing the misery in the world and blaming God for it. But that is not the Christian worldview. The Christian does not blame God for the evil in the world because God explicitly holds people personally and corporally accountable to make good decisions, and is very clear that He is not going to step in and exert his will over the freedom of choice that people want to have. That would be a dictatorship. It's obviously very hard to undertand the reality of poverty. But I believe that many Christians would confirm that poverty, like so many other social ills, is a consequence or a symptom of a world that is full of greed, pride, selfishness, conquest and conflict. Hence, my statement that starvation is the result of a brutal world that has rejected God.

On the other end we have statements in the Bible that God's love for people is incomprehensible and unending. And I believe he hears the cries of the broken...those who are in a state of starvation or some other kind of misery for example. And if they are willing to reach out to him (many are not), he will be their "refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble," as Psalm 46 states.

Blessings to you today.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 254: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:26 pm
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Re: I am seriously questioning my atheism

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All Fish live in the sea
All Sea Otters live in the sea
Therefore Sea Otters are fish

Fallacies of relevance…..or conditional statement?
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists

If all fish do live in the sea, then Objective morals do exist…….both are conditional of acceptance of the other being true. This could also be defined as begging the question. Petitio principii (Begging the question)
This fallacy occurs when the premises are at least as questionable as the conclusion reached. Typically the premises of the argument implicitly assume the result which the argument purports to prove, in a disguised form. For example:

"The Bible is the word of God. The word of God cannot be doubted, and the Bible states that the Bible is true. Therefore the Bible must be true.”
Of course ALL fish do not live in the sea, nothing is purely objective, and the world is not flat and spiders have eight legs and not for like the bible says.

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